The abbess-apparent of a Philadelphia nunnery goes to illegal extremes to insure her election and resigns in disgrace when those extremes become known. [ Nasty Habits: Dir: Michael Lindsay-Hogg/ Glenda Jackson, Melina Mercouri, Geraldine Page/ 92 min/ Comedy/ Britain/ Corrupt Government]
In the mood for a good laugh? Try this hilarious satire of the Watergate affair. All the major characters of Nixon’s inner circle are parodied with their nunnery-equivalents, as are the most significant episodes of Nixon’s downfall. As in Nixon’s case, it is the abbess-apparent’s overestimation of her liberal opponent’s strength that causes her to engage in a break-in, a bugging, and finally a cover-up. The concept of nuns being corrupt and lusting for power is, of course, rich with humorous possibilities, and Nasty Habits makes the most of these.
As the film opens, the current, aged abbess of a Philadelphia nunnery is dying. She wants Alexandra, a conservative nun after her own pattern, to succeed her. But the old abbess dies before actually endorsing Alexandra. Meanwhile, a younger nun with liberal ideas of making the nunnery a “love convent” is attracting popular support. Alexandra fears she may lose the upcoming election for abbess to this young upstart. So she encourages her loyal aides to begin a campaign of bugging and other dirty tricks against the young rival, while at the same time taking Machiavellian steps to distance herself personally from the operation. The scheme begins to unravel, however, when some of the dirty tricksters get caught.
Glenda Jackson, in the leading role (and later a member of Britain’s parliament), plays the power-mad abbess brilliantly, and is supported by a first-rate cast that includes some of the best female comedic talent of all time. Nasty Habits benefits as well from an unusually witty script. This is a very enjoyable comedy, regardless of whether you know anything about Watergate, but those familiar with the scandal will get the most out of it. Parodies this good are every politician’s worst nightmare.